JW Jones

JW Jones
Seventh Hour

Solid Blues Records

By Tony Del Rey
September 2012

Rarely does a contemporary recording artist convey blues music’s basic primal passions with as much flair as guitar firebrand and tunesmith, JW – Jones. “Commercial-sounding blues” may be a contradiction in terms, but on his latest disc, Seventh Hour, Jones twists the standard blues progressions into an arresting blend of adult contemporary rock and blue-eyed soul, blurring the line between the expected and the unforeseen.

From the ringing guitar line that opens “Ain’t Gonna Beg” to the sweltering four-to-the-bar finish that marks the album’s halfway point, “All Over Again,” Jones and his band can do no wrong. The trio of keyboard, bass and drums backing him up sound thoroughly rehearsed - their tight, purposeful rhythms providing a smooth surface for Jones’ stabbing guitar and penetrating melodies to puncture holes in.

Nestled between these tracks is Seventh Hour’s finest moment, a tom-tom-driven happy blues with a high-kicking chorus titled, “In A Song.” With its thrumming chord flourishes and shifting rhythmic meters, the tune bears resemblance to the Nashville Teens’ 1964 hit single version of “Tobacco Road.” There the similarities end. Instead of being an autobiographical tale about growing up poor, Jones’ lyric ponders the vicissitudes of love and the artist’s bent for writing about them.

The bathroom tile slap echo used to warming effect on Jones’ vocal gives the “she-done-me-wrong” sentiment a dash of male hauteur. However, the song’s overall mood is more one of humorous incredulity than it is sour grapes. And that’s refreshing.

Unfortunately, the material comprising the latter half of Seventh Hour doesn’t sustain the musical creativity at the top. It falls victim to the law of diminishing returns, content to draw on familiar blues themes and extended soloing for inspiration. Even a bathetic ballad, “What Is Real,” finds its way onto the disc, where its enervating tempo and baleful slide guitar conspire to induce the effect of a glass of warm milk before bed. And that’s disappointing.

Given the bifurcated nature of the disc, a listener might wonder if the order of song selection indicates a conscious effort on the part of Jones to put his best material up front. Only Jones knows for sure. But whether the album is a deliberate tale of two halves or just unsuccessfully balanced, there’s little doubt of Seventh Hour’s commercial appeal.

And that’s saying something.

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